It’s hard to understand what goes through people’s minds. Is it that they believe themselves invincible? Is it some combination of immaturity and certainty that makes them believe this is a worthy thing to do? It’s bad enough when protesters, if that’s what they are, block a car driving down the street. Cars get to drive down public streets, even if protesters don’t want them to. Protesters do not get to damage the cars, threaten their occupants, even if protesters want to.
But when it’s a police car, another factor comes into play. The police car, and the cop inside, is on the road for a public purpose. Yes, the protesters don’t want that to be so, but not even a crowd of 100 protesters gets dictate how society functions for the rest of society. Cops’ existence may offend them, but that’s not their choice. And the cop is placed in a quandary. Does he do his job, which is not to be dictated by people in the street, or does he allow his job to be controlled by the protesters, who have decided to surround the car, pound on the car, block the car and, thus, control the cop?
Tacoma police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said police were notified shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday of street racers and a crowd of approximately 100 people blocking streets in the area.
Haddow said the officer used his car’s bullhorn to address the crowd. The crowd then began pounding on his windows, she said.
“He was afraid they would break his glass,” she said. That prompted him to speed out of the scene for his own safety.
Video of the unnamed officer is shocking.
The video doesn’t show people pounding on the windows of the police car, though that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. There is no sound of the officer telling people to get out of the way or he will run them down, though that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen either. But what it shows, in excruciating detail, is that the cop backed up a bit, revved the engine and, at a rate of speed that says he had no plan to stop, plow through the crowd.
There is no question that the law does not allow the taking of life for the protection of property, a balance used by protesters, rioters, people hanging out on the street to watch others do donuts, to believe they can control the police by putting their bodies in front of a car. This black letter law, of course, was not developed to address this scenario. It was neither understood nor anticipated that the law would be used in this fashion, as a means not to protect human life, but to thwart the cops in the performance of their duty.
But driving a car into a crowd of people, even blithering idiots who believe they are entitled to control a cop and his car by blocking its movement, is still a use of deadly force. This can only be lawfully justified in defense of force, not because of annoyance or insult.
What was the cop to do? That’s the question. No doubt there are a multitude of answers to this question, depending on external factors (why not call for backup, 100 cops to clear the street and free the car?). Then again, what if the cop announced over the bullhorn that he was going to inch forward and anyone refusing to move out of the way would be run over, exhorting them to move to no one was harmed? What if they refused to move? “Go ahead, run me down,” some cried, so he did?
Was the officer in fear of his life? It doesn’t appear to be the case, and even if he believes it, it doesn’t appear factually justified. This just didn’t involve any apparent threat of death or serious injury. Granted, allowing a crowd on the street to seize control of his movement is enraging, both to society beyond the mentality of protesters and to a cop, who is likely to be of the view that he gets to control them rather than the other way around.
But what no one can do, whether cop or not, is plow into a crowd of people, no matter how brazen, childish or stupid, and run them down. The video suggests that the cop involved snapped. He decided he was going to run them down and he did. He made no effort to mitigate the harm; he backed up, revved the engine (which might have been meant as a warning) and then hit the gas. Whoever was in the way, well, tough on them.
This was a crime. Even though the people run down were also wrong, and too moronic for words, they do not deserve to die for being idiots. This is unsatisfying, as it provides no answers to how a society can function when anarchy by a few can stymie governmental function, but running over people is not a lawful or viable solution. What a friggin’ mess.